Sunday, November 24, 2019

GOOD GRIEF: Witness to Others What You Have Learned

Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation

I don’t know; I think I’d be gloomy without some faith that there is a purpose and there is a kind of witness to my life.
— John Updike, Novelist

These are words that I take to heart. I have often thought, what good is it if I kept what I learned and experienced to myself while I watch others suffer?

We all learn many valuable lessons on our journey through life. As children, we are taught many lessons about what to do and how to behave daily. We grow older and learn new lessons as we have different experiences, some good and some not so good. As parents, we try to share these lessons with our children, hoping they do not make the same mistakes we made. Aging occurs, and we learn even more lessons of life. Lessons that are valuable, but do we recognize the value of these lessons? Do we keep them to ourselves or do we offer them up to help others?

I have wanted to help others all my life, with what I knew and what I’ve learned so their lives would be easier, their suffering not as acute, hoping they’d skip some of the pain in the process. Yes, I was a compulsive helper in this respect; being a nurse helped to meet that need. But, I have learned that not everyone loves to hear, “Let me tell you what I learned, so you don’t make the same mistakes.”

Some, even most, people were not interested. They wanted to go their own ways, make their own mistakes and live their own lives. OK, then, I thought, they have a right to run their own lives. This hurt, but I have always been willing to learn, to try to do better…even if it took years. And it did.

But what if you could approach this sharing of life’s lessons in another way? I thought. I learned that there are many ways to do this that are more effective and that maintain respect for others.

One way is to be a witness to others. A witness, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “…one who has personal knowledge of something, something serving as evidence or proof, public affirmation by word or example….”

During my journey through my grief and loss, I learned a lot. Each day, even now, I am learning: how to go on alone, how to find purpose, how to find peace and joy, how to be brave, how to help others with what I learned…and to bear witness.

I have always wanted to write a book, but I never had a clear direction as to the content. The death of my husband was the stimulus for me to pursue this dream…although I did not recognize it at first. I was only journaling my thoughts, terrified that I would forget some part of what occurred. And then, something amazing happened. Interactions with people during this time stimulated words that became written down as stories and lessons learned.

Writing this book became my purpose and a learning opportunity for me about how to share and care for others. In this book, I tell my story, bearing witness to my journey: the sadness, grief, humor, progress and setbacks, helpful tips, and encouragement.

I hope you, too, can be a witness to others who are going through grief and loss. I urge you to provide caring, compassion, and support…instead of telling others how they should grieve or how long it should take.

Encourage with gentleness and love those who are suffering.

Be a witness!


With her permission, I am serializing here a near-final version of nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book, published by Outskirts Press, is through this Amazon link: 

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